ExxonMobil Oil Pipeline Spills Thousands of Barrels in Arkansas

The energy giant ExxonMobil continues a cleanup of thousands of barrels of crude oil following the rupturing of a pipeline near Mayflower, Arkansas. The pipeline leaked for around 45 minutes, releasing more than 12,000 barrels of oil and water. Around two dozen homes have been evacuated. The pipeline was carrying tar sands oil from Canada. Inside Climate News reports the type of crude oil involved is especially difficult to clean up when it spills into water. Efforts are underway to prevent the contamination of the nearby drinking source, Lake Conway. The Environmental Protection Agency has designated the incident as a "major spill." It came two days after a train also carrying Canadian crude derailed in Minnesota, spilling at least 15,000 gallons of oil. It also comes as the Obama administration prepares to issue a decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would expand the transport of Canadian tar sands oil on a massive scale.

White Supremacist Link Suspected in Shooting Death of Texas DA, Wife

The FBI and local police are investigating a potential link to white supremacist prison gangs in the killing of a Texas district attorney and his wife in their home. Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and Cynthia McLelland were shot dead just two months after Assistant Prosecutor Mark Hasse also was gunned down at the Kaufman County courthouse. The FBI is looking into a possible connection to the March 19 murder of Tom Clements, the Colorado prisons chief who was shot and killed after answering the doorbell at his home. Two days later, a white supremacist suspect in the case was killed in a shootout with Texas deputies. The Texas Department of Public Safety had warned prosecutors in December the Aryan Brotherhood may have been plotting retaliation against law enforcement officials over a major indictment of dozens of members.

U.S. Sends F-22 Fighter Jets to South Korea

The United States is continuing military drills in South Korea amidst heightened tensions with the North Korean regime. On Sunday, the U.S. Air Force deployed F-22 fighter jets to its main base in South Korea, two days after North Korea put its rocket units on standby for potential attack on U.S. bases. North Korea also said it is entering a "state of war" with South Korea, but few expect it to conduct any aggressive action beyond verbal threats.

NATO Airstrike Kills Child, Others in Afghanistan

At least one Afghan child and a number of other people were killed in Afghanistan on Saturday when a U.S.-led NATO helicopter opened fire in eastern Ghazni province. Aside from the child, the identities of the other victims remain under dispute, with conflicting reports of a death toll of either 15 civilians or nine Taliban fighters.

India Supreme Court Rejects Swiss Drug Giant’s Effort to Block Generic Drugs

India’s Supreme Court has issued a landmark ruling rejecting a longtime effort by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis to block production of cheaper generic drugs. Novartis has sought patent protection for the cancer drug Glivec in India since 2006. The case was seen as a critical test of India’s ability to manufacture low-cost generic drugs that are distributed throughout the global South to treat infectious diseases. Speaking outside the courtroom earlier today, Leena Menghaney of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders praised the court’s decision.

Leena Menghaney: "It’s a huge relief, because we have more than 200,000 people living with HIV on treatment. Eighty percent of them come from India, the drugs come from India, so we were really worried that a Novartis win would mean that less number of drugs would be available for MSF procurement. So it’s a big, big relief for us that the drugs are now safe and secure and available to patients in developing countries."

On the eve of the ruling, Novartis had threatened to stop sending new medicines to India if the court did not decide in its favor. The judgment will likely affect other major pharmaceutical companies and their drug brands in India.

Philippines Seeks Compensation for U.S. Ship’s Damage to Coral Reef

The Philippines government is calling on the United States for compensation following the removal of a naval ship that was stuck on a pristine coral reef for 10 weeks. The U.S.S. Guardian was stranded in the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park after its commanders ignored warnings from park rangers. The reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At least 4,000 square meters have been damaged. The ship’s last pieces were finally removed on Saturday. In addition to the calls for compensation, the incident has also sparked debate over the U.S. military presence in the Philippines.

Lawmakers Report Agreement in Bipartisan Immigration Talks

Congressional lawmakers involved in talks on immigration reform say they have reached the basis for a bipartisan deal. A gap between labor and business groups on the status of guest workers was reportedly bridged over the weekend, paving the way for the bipartisan Senate proposal to be unveiled sometime next week. One member of the group, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, however, has warned that a deal has yet to be reached.

Federal Judge Invalidates Provisions of Indiana Anti-Immigrant Law

A federal judge has struck down key sections of Indiana’s 2011 anti-immigrant law. Inspired by Arizona’s law, the measure empowered law enforcement officers to request proof of legal residency of anyone they suspect of being undocumented, allowed the warrantless arrests of non-U.S. citizens and effectively criminalized use of consular identification.

Rep. Don Young Apologizes for "Wetback" Comment

Republican Rep. Don Young has apologized after he was recorded calling migrant workers "wetbacks." Young made the comment during a radio interview in his home state of Alaska.

Rep. Don Young: "My father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks and — to pick tomatoes. You know, it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine."

House Speaker John Boehner admonished Young for the comment on Friday, calling his words "offensive and beneath the dignity of the office." In his initial apology, Young said he was unaware the term is considered offensive.

Obama Renews Call for Insfrastructure Projects

President Obama has renewed his call for an infrastructure investment program to fund the repair of the nation’s roads and bridges. Obama unveiled new proposals at a public event in Florida.

President Obama: "Today I’m expanding on a proposal I made in the State of the Union. I’m calling it 'A Partnership to Rebuild America.' It’s a partnership with the private sector that creates jobs upgrading what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods, modern pipelines to withstand a storm, modern schools worthy of our children. Miami-Dade, my main message is: Let’s get this done. Let’s rebuild this country we love. Let’s make sure we’re staying on the cutting edge."

Obama’s plan calls for spending $21 billion on new municipal bonds, loans for infrastructure projects, and the creation of an infrastructure bank. The White House says the plan would not add to the deficit, meaning it would likely rely at least in part on private funding. The latest report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state of U.S. infrastructure a grade of D+.

Atlanta Educators Indicted for School Cheating Scandal

Nearly three dozen former educators have been indicted in Atlanta, Georgia, on charges of involvement in a massive cheating scandal at public schools. Among those charged was the Atlanta school district’s former superintendent, Beverly Hall. Prosecutors say teachers were forced to modify incorrect answers, and students were even allowed to fix their responses during exams.

KKK Members Rally Against Renaming of Memphis Parks

Several dozen members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied in Memphis on Saturday to protest the renaming of three city parks that had honored Confederate soldiers. The demonstrators carried signs bearing swastikas and engaged in chants of "white power." It was the first Klan rally in Memphis in 15 years.

World Social Forum Concludes in Tunisia

The annual World Social Forum wrapped up in Tunisia over the weekend with tens of thousands of people attending from nearly 130 countries. It was the first time the forum was held in an Arab country, one considered the birthplace of the Arab Spring. On top of the forum’s longtime slogan of "Another world is possible," local hosts in Tunisia added the word "dignity."

Study: Cost of Afghan-Iraq Wars Grows to $4-$6 Trillion

A new tally puts the combined cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars at between $4 to $6 trillion — the most expensive conflict in U.S. history. The figure from Harvard University’s Linda Bilmes updates a previous study estimating a cost of $3 trillion. The study concludes the bulk of the wars’ cost has yet to be paid off, meaning their legacy "will dominate future federal budgets for decades to come."


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